NFL Teams, Players Proving to Be Fool's Gold
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Usually before the NFL season begins there are a handful of players and teams you just know are going to shimmer under the sun. No matter the angle you twist and turn upon examining, the value of that vibrant object in contrast to the lifeless sand around it seems unmistakable.
As with fool’s gold offering up false hope to an unsuspecting prospector, so too do these miscalculations occur with NFL players and teams. Sometimes that shine, no matter how alluring, is merely a leftover varnish from last year’s performance. Underneath their glossy stats and misleading potential lies a wicked truth which leaves many NFL GMs regretting the day they thought they struck it rich.
These are the players and teams who entered the 2013 season with high hopes and tons of potential, only to show up like unpopped kernels at the bottom of a bag of popcorn through six weeks of action.
Perhaps some need to cook just a little bit longer to bust out of their shells, while others are forever destined to rattle around the bottom of the bag, never to realize their explosive potential.
Eli Manning and the New York Giants
General thinking has been that as long as you have Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning on your team, you’ll probably have a fighting chance to compete for a Super Bowl title each and every year.
Those sentiments now seem like a distant memory since replaced with a more ominous reality as the New York Giants have failed to come up with a single victory this season.
In case you were wondering, Eli Manning has not been hurt. Instead, he has simply been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league this year. This is a far cry from his days as a two-time Super Bowl champion.
The Giants have struggled all season with poor offensive line play and an underachieving defense—but Eli is in no way absolved from taking some responsibility for this debacle. Last year, he attempted 536 passes and had only 15 interceptions. This year, he has accumulated the same amount of picks in only 229 throws. That’s less than half of the attempts from a year ago.
His 53.7 percent completion rate is the lowest he’s had in eight years.
It’s nearly impossible for the Giants to climb out of a 0-6 hole. There’s little doubt that this terribly disappointing season will end with several lost jobs. Coughlin could be one of those names to hit the chopping block.
Someone must answer for the horridness of the season, especially considering Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
The natural ability and physical tools to play wide receiver in the NFL have been unfairly showered upon Dwayne Bowe. As a result, this 6’2”, 220-pound human trampoline has been extremely productive throughout his seven-year career—when healthy. In fact, in the four seasons where he played in all 16 games, he has averaged 1,084 yards receiving along with eight touchdowns. Not to mention he has done all of this without the added benefit of a quality quarterback throwing him the ball.
Leading up to the 2013 season, Bowe had this to say, according to ESPN.com:
I’m going to tire a lot of cornerbacks out because we’re going hurry-up offense every day, practicing full speed, fast, hurry-up offense, and that’s something that’s going to catch the defense off guard, and that’s going to open up a lot of big plays down the field for the receivers and for the running game.
As a result of this thinking, Bowe made a rather bold prediction that he’d lead the NFL in receptions and touchdowns way back in May.
Many of us analysts could see the potential for a big year from Dwayne, who opted to stay in Kansas City after signing a five-year, $56 million contract extension. This essentially meant he would finish out his career as a loyal and happy member of the Chiefs organization.
With quarterback Alex Smith and head coach Andy Reid jumping on board, the outlook for 2013 seemed bright.
Yet after six games of the 2013 season, Bowe has only mustered up 20 catches for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That puts him on pace for fewer than 60 catches and under 700 yards receiving. Essentially, Mr. Big Bucks is having the worst year of his professional career.
Perhaps Smith’s inability to get him the ball is a factor—but whatever the case may be, his season so far has been an utter disappointment.
When the St. Louis Rams added free-agent tight end Jared Cook to the roster, I deemed it one of the biggest offseason acquisitions in the league. Expectations were clearly high on a guy who had the athleticism and quickness of a wideout but the size and power of a tight end.
In a league that thrives off of mismatches, Cook offered quarterback Sam Bradford and the Rams one of the most promising offensive weapons available. Opening week served as confirmation of this fortuitous acquisition when he sliced up the Cardinals defense with seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
As a proud fantasy owner of Cook, my ego swelled with every glorious catch he made in that Week 1 performance. The promise of a glorious future was imminent. Little did I know that day would be the pinnacle of a frustrating season—one nearly halfway over.
Since that day, Cook has only managed 15 catches in five games and has failed to reach the end zone once. Nearly half of his 311 receiving yards have come in one game.
It's unclear what exactly is going on with the Rams' offense in general; they’re one of the worst teams on third down and have even failed to get Tavon Austin into open space.
Though Cook is not necessarily having the worst year imaginable, he is vastly underachieving in his first season with the Rams after teasing them with a stellar debut.
Last year, Antonio Cromartie was one of the best cornerbacks in the league. With Darrelle Revis out for the season, Cromartie stepped up his game and became a shutdown corner in his own right. In 2012, he allowed only five touchdown passes and held opposing quarterbacks to a 69.7 passer rating, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Fast forward to 2013 and Cromartie has already given up three touchdowns in only six games. To make matters worse, opposing quarterbacks have a 110.6 passer rating when throwing into his coverage.
You would hope that with all the big plays and catches he’s giving up that at least he’s taking the ball away on occasion. Unfortunately, Antonio Cromartie has not hauled in a single interception this season.
To put how poorly Cromartie has played this year into proper perspective, there are 104 cornerbacks in the NFL this season who have played at least 25 percent of the defensive snaps. Cromartie is ranked second-to-last behind only Cortland Finnegan, per PFF.
This is the type of inconsistent play that ran him out of San Diego. Head coach Rex Ryan has done a nice job so far keeping Antonio motivated and playing to his strengths. Yet for some reason, he has been absolutely atrocious as of late.
The question remains whether he will bounce back in the second half of the season or be run out of town for a second time in his roller coaster career.
When the Miami Dolphins handed Mike Wallace a five-year contract worth $60 million, they envisioned a speed demon opening up the offense down the field.
Lack of a deep threat was last year's glaring weakness during quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s rookie season.
Though signing Wallace to such a big contract may have seemed excessive to many outside the organization, few people would have imagined how excessive that contract would turn out to be. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Wallace is graded 104 out of 106 wide receivers in the NFL with a -6.3 score. There are 46 wideouts in the NFL who currently have more receiving yards than Wallace.
Furthermore, there’s no doubt they paid such a high price for this weapon under the belief that Wallace would at least have more than a single touchdown by now—but no.
Perhaps the icing on the cake for this regretful free-agent signing is that Wallace also leads the NFL in dropped passes. There should be a clause in his contract that forces him to pay some of the money back for playing so terribly.
Since becoming a full-time starter back in 2009 during his second year in the league, Ray Rice has never had fewer than 1,000 yards rushing, nor has he ever veered south of four yards per carry.
Perhaps what’s most impressive from this physical runner who’s only 5’9” and just shy of 200 pounds is that since he’s taken on the role of the workhorse for this offense; he has never missed a single game due to injury—at least leading up to the 2013 season. This is quite a feat for any running back, let alone one with such diminutive measurements.
After the Ravens traded Anquan Boldin, it stood to reason that the offense would rely even more heavily on Rice and the running game. So it seemed only natural to expect a huge season from the talented and durable runner.
Unfortunately, this has been a horrific season for not only Rice, but the entire Ravens offense. His streak of not missing a game since becoming the starter has also come to end as he sat during Week 3 with a hip flexor injury.
So far this season, he has averaged just 2.8 yards per carry on 71 attempts and has only crossed the goal line on three occasions. His longest run has been 14 yards.
I’d like to say that he has not fully recovered from his injury, but the truth is he hasn’t played well all season long.
Perhaps he can turn things around, but as of right now, Rice has been nothing but a giant heap of fool’s gold.
Many experts had the Atlanta Falcons primed and ready to take the next step toward winning the franchise's first Super Bowl. They had the quarterback, they had the receivers—heck, they even convinced Tony Gonzalez to come out of retirement for one last hurrah. This was to be his final shot at a Super Bowl. What could possibly go wrong?
As for me, I never bought the hype surrounding the Falcons. I could see some major areas of concern and figured they would struggle as a result. With that said, I never would’ve anticipated the Falcons having only one victory in five games.
To make matters worse, the team lost its most dynamic playmaker, Julio Jones, for the season.
One of the few bright spots has been quarterback Matt Ryan. His play has been steady despite the struggles and hardships the team has faced. Throughout the process, and thanks in large part to him, the Falcons have at least kept games close right down to the final whistle. This is evident with their minus-12 point differential on the season.
Although the Falcons have not been particularly terrible in any category, they’ve failed to close out games in the fourth quarter.